|Created by||Denis Leary|
Robert John Burke
|Opening theme||"C'mon C'mon" by The Von Bondies|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||7|
|No. of episodes||93|
Thomas M. Bolger
|Running time||40-50 minutes|
60 minutes (series finale)
|Production||The Cloudland Company|
Sony Pictures Television
|Distributor||Sony Pictures Television|
|Picture format||480i (SDTV) (NTSC)|
576i (SDTV) (PAL)
|Original release||July 21, 2004 -|
September 7, 2011
Rescue Me is an American comedy-drama television series that premiered on the FX on July 21, 2004 and concluded on September 7, 2011. The series focuses on the professional and personal lives of a group of New York City firefighters.
The protagonist and focal point of the series is veteran New York City firefighter Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary). The series follows Tommy's troubled family and co-workers as they deal with real-life issues, such as post-9/11 trauma or their own domestic problems. Tommy struggles with the loss of his cousin and best friend, firefighter Jimmy Keefe (James McCaffrey), as well as 59 other firefighters whom he knew who died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Jimmy frequently visits Tommy in ghostly dreams.
Tommy is an impatient, self-loathing, hypocritical, manipulative relapsed alcoholic who suffers with severe survivor guilt and posttraumatic stress disorder as a result of 9/11. In the pilot episode, he and his wife Janet (Andrea Roth) have already separated, although they are technically still married, and Tommy has moved across the street. Most of Tommy's actions as a firefighter are heroic and brave, but his family members and fellow firefighters view him as selfish, despite his concern for others and passion for the job.
Rescue Me was created by Leary and Peter Tolan, who also serve as executive producers and head writers, and is produced by Cloudland Company, Apostle, DreamWorks Television, and Sony Pictures Television.
Rescue Me mainly focuses on Tommy Gavin's family and the men of his firehouse, but many other characters are introduced over the seven seasons who stay on as regular characters. Recurring guests include Maura Tierney, Artie Lange, Susan Sarandon, Desmond Harrington, Marisa Tomei, Gina Gershon, Peter Gallagher, Michael J. Fox, Cam Neely, Lyndon Byers, Phil Esposito, and Jennifer Esposito.
|Denis Leary||Thomas Michael "Tommy" Gavin||FDNY Firefighter, 1st Grade, Ladder Company 62 (Senior Man)||Main|
|John Scurti||Kenneth "Lou" Shea||FDNY Lieutenant, Ladder Company 62||Main|
|Daniel Sunjata||Franco Rivera||FDNY Firefighter, 1st Grade (later Lieutenant), Ladder Company 62||Main|
|Steven Pasquale||Sean Leslie Garrity||FDNY Firefighter/EMT, 1st Grade, Ladder Company 62||Main|
|Mike Lombardi||Mike Silletti||FDNY Probationary Firefighter (later Firefighter, 1st Grade), Ladder Company 62||Main|
|Andrea Roth||Janet Gavin||Tommy Gavin's wife||Main|
|Callie Thorne||Sheila Keefe||Jimmy Keefe's widow, Tommy Gavin's lover||Main|
|Natalie Distler||Colleen Gavin Johnston||Tommy Gavin's daughter, Bart "Black Sean" Johnston's wife||Recurring|
|James McCaffrey||James Xavier "Jimmy" Keefe||FDNY Firefighter/EMT, 1st Grade, Ladder Company 62 (Senior Man), Tommy Gavin's cousin (Deceased, 9/11)||Main||Recurring|
|Robert John Burke||Mickey "Mick" Gavin||Former Roman Catholic priest, Tommy Gavin's cousin||Recurring|
|Lenny Clarke||Theodore "Teddy" Gavin||Retired FDNY Firefighter, Vietnam War veteran, Tommy Gavin's uncle||Recurring|
|Adam Ferrara||William "Needles" Nelson||FDNY Battalion Chief, 30th Battalion||Recurring||Main|
|Larenz Tate||Bart "Black Sean" Johnston||FDNY Probationary Firefighter (later Firefighter, 1st Grade), Ladder Company 62||Recurring||Main|
|Jack McGee||Jerry Reilly||FDNY Battalion Chief, 15th Battalion||Main|
|Michael Zegen||Damien Keefe||FDNY Probationary Firefighter, Ladder Company 62||Recurring|
|Tatum O'Neal||Peggy Sue "Maggie" Gavin Garrity||Sister of Tommy Gavin, Ex-Wife of Sean Garrity||Recurring||Main||Recurring|
|Dean Winters||Johnny Gavin||NYPD Detective, Tommy Gavin's Brother||Recurring||Main||Recurring|
|Diane Farr||Laura Miles||FDNY Firefighter, 1st Grade, Ladder Company 62||Recurring||Main|
|Actor||Character Name||Character Role|
|Olivia Crocicchia||Katy Marie Gavin||Daughter of Tommy Gavin|
|Jerry Adler||Sidney Feinberg||FDNY 75th Battalion Chief (later Deputy Division Chief) (recurring Season 4-7)|
|Charles Durning||Michael Gavin||Tommy Gavin's Father, retired FDNY Firefighter (recurring Season 1-4)|
|Niels Jorgensen||Niels Jorgensen||FDNY Firefighter, 1st Grade, Ladder Company 62 (Ladder Company Chauffeur-LCC) (recurring Season 1-7)|
|Trevor Heins||Connor Gavin||Tommy Gavin's Son (recurring Season 1-2)|
|Milena Govich||Barbara "Danielle"/"Candy" Callahan||Kenneth Shea's Ex-Wife, a former Prostitute and Porn star|
|Terry Serpico||Eddie Gavin||Tommy Gavin's Cousin, a Lawyer with the District Attorney's Office|
|Michael Mulheren||Ron Perolli||FDNY 15th Battalion Chief, Battalion Commander|
|Patti D'Arbanville||Ellie Gavin||Teddy Gavin's Wife (recurring Season 3-5)|
|Maura Tierney||Kelly McPhee||Tommy Gavin's Girlfriend (recurring Season 5-7)|
|Ed Sullivan||Billy Warren||FDNY Firefighter, 1st Grade Ladder Company 62 (recurring Season 1)|
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||13||July 21, 2004||October 13, 2004|
|2||13||June 21, 2005||September 17, 2005|
|3||13||May 30, 2006||August 29, 2006|
|4||13||June 13, 2007||September 12, 2007|
|5||22||April 7, 2009||September 1, 2009|
|6||10||June 29, 2010||August 31, 2010|
|7||9||July 13, 2011||September 7, 2011|
Season 1 of Rescue Me debuted on July 21, 2004, and began by introducing the members of New York City Fire Department's fictional Ladder Company 62--aka "62 Truck"--quartered with the fictional Engine Company 99 and the Chief of the 15th (later 30th) Battalion in a firehouse in northeastern Harlem, New York City. The show opens by exploring their lives, both at home and inside the firehouse. It also features the well-known comedian Denis Leary, who carries his humorous nature into the show. The series focuses on the main character Tommy Gavin, played by Leary, as he deals with the effects of the September 11, 2001 attacks, which, for him, include seeing the ghost of his cousin, Firefighter Jimmy Keefe, who died on 9/11, as well as the ghosts of various people he failed to save over the years. Gavin and his wife Janet are separated and, from across the street, he sees her begin to date again. He plans to get her back and prevent her from leaving the state with his children. Janet separated from Tommy several months prior, due to his failure to commit to his family and open up about 9/11. Tommy's daughter Colleen says she is in a relationship with another girl.
15th Battalion Chief Jerry Reilly attacks a gay former firefighter in a bar after the former FDNY member speaks to the press and claims that at least 20 of the 343 men who died during the 9/11 attacks were gay. Sean Garrity begins to date one of Franco Rivera's (many) ex-girlfriends, which leads to Franco's finding out that he has a daughter with the woman; Rivera later takes the daughter in after the mother fatally overdoses. Tommy begins a love affair with Jimmy's widow Sheila (a taboo among firefighters), and Probationary Firefighter ("probie") Mike Silletti begins to secretly date a "fat chick" named Theresa (Ashlie Atkinson). Lieutenant Ken Shea, Tommy's superior officer, deals with 9/11 by secretly writing poetry and then starts to have an affair after learning his wife is preparing to leave him anyway. Tommy has emotional issues throughout season 1.
After firefighter Billy Warren dies in a fire, the city sends Laura Miles to replace him. She clashes with the guys in general (as they do not want a woman on their crew) and with Tommy in particular. She is watching him, and believes he is becoming dangerous as he takes more and more seemingly unnecessary risks on the job. The season comes to a close with Tommy's mistake at a fire which causes Franco to get hurt, and with Tommy's eventual transfer out of the house after the rest of the crew finds out he has been seeing Sheila and gotten her pregnant. In the final scene of the season finale, Tommy shows up at his wife's house to find her and his children missing, along with everything in the house. While consuming a bottle of vodka he finds in a cupboard, he uses a baseball bat to destroy anything that's left in the house.
Season 2 premiered on June 21, 2005. It began with Tommy at a new firehouse on Staten Island and his replacement at 62 Truck, Sully, becoming everyone's favorite. While responding to a fire at an underground sex club, they discover that the "woman" they rescued is really Sully in a black leather skirt and bustier. The next day, Sully requests a transfer because he knows the crew will never let him live that down. This clears the way for Tommy to return.
Back in the old house Tommy shifts his focus to finding his family and dealing with his father, who took an unannounced vacation and came home with a new (rich) wife, Jenny Ng. Sheila has a miscarriage, but lies about it to keep Tommy near. Later on in the season, Sheila gets involved in a relationship with a woman named Debbie who turns abusive towards her. In the season 2 finale, Tommy has an emotional meltdown after being punched in the face three times. This is a result of Gavins' losing Connor.
Meanwhile, Tommy and Johnny Gavin find out that their father had a long, on-going affair during their childhood, which produced two children. Eventually their new-found half brother, who is a priest, gets arrested after they discover he is a pedophile.
Silletti stalks his ex-girlfriend after she dumps him. Chief Jerry's wife gradually deteriorates from Alzheimer's, and he is forced to seek help from his estranged son before placing her in a long-term care facility. Laura and Franco begin dating, but Laura eventually leaves Franco and the firehouse. Lieutenant Shea is conned by a prostitute named Candy, resulting in his losing his entire life savings. Jenny Ng dies, but the expected financial windfall for Tommy's father never happens. Tommy's estranged sister Maggie shows up in town.
Tommy and his family reconcile for a time, but when their only son Connor is killed by a drunk driver, it is too much for Janet to handle, and she blames Tommy. It only gets worse when Johnny finds out the driver is well-connected and may not do time, so Tommy's uncle Teddy murders the man in public.
Season 3 premiered on May 30, 2006. Tommy and Janet have re-separated, and Teddy is in jail for murder. Janet begins sleeping with Johnny, Tommy's brother. Tommy attacks Johnny at their father's 83rd birthday dinner, and then they fight it out in the street. Later, following an argument, Tommy rapes Janet. The violence of the act is contrasted with his post-coital attitude.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Shea, still smarting from getting conned, is becoming testy with everyone on the crew and slowly spiraling downward. Mike Silletti (now no longer referred to as "Probie") begins a sexual relationship with his male roommate (receiving oral sex), and Tommy falls back into things with Sheila. Sheila wants to get Tommy away from Janet completely, and begins to drug him with rohypnol and Viagra to have sex. Maggie soon finds herself dating Sean Garrity, among others.
Janet gets pregnant with either Johnny's or Tommy's baby, and announces she wants to keep it to replace Connor. The crew finds out about Mike's possible homosexuality, and Tommy comes to his defense. Tommy defends Mike mainly because of fears that he has over the fire crew's breaking up, and says he considers Mike part of his extended family at the fire house. Franco starts to date Alicia (Susan Sarandon), a rich older woman who eventually takes his daughter from him. (He is unable to do anything about it, because he had taken her from foster care without permission and therefore is not the girl's legal guardian.) Lt. Shea moves in with Tommy and begins seeing Theresa, a soon-to-be ex-nun with whom he plans on moving to Florida to be first mate on his cousin's boat. Chief Reilly tries to meet his wife's increasing health care costs by taking a second job at a bar. Later, he suffers a heart attack after having sex with Karlene, an illegal Jamaican immigrant who is a caretaker at the long-term care facility where his wife now lives.
During a stakeout, Johnny is killed by someone who was contracted to stop him from testifying against a powerful drug dealer Johnny had arrested months beforehand. During his funeral, Sean and Maggie decide to get married at the cemetery. Tommy, Johnny, and Maggie's long lost sister Rosemary Gavin is introduced; she is deaf and had been shunned by her parents, but reconciles with her father.
Uncle Teddy, still in prison, receives numerous letters from a woman named Ellie, who is proud of the action he took upon Connor's killer. The two begin a relationship and get married, which allows Ellie to meet with him for conjugal visits.
With the 62 Truck crew seemingly breaking up, Tommy decides to retire and move in with Sheila in her new home on Long Island. He changes his mind after talking with Janet about her pregnancy and discovering that his crew will remain together after all. (Mike isn't transferring, Lou has changed his mind about the boat after discovering he lacked "sea legs", and Franco has failed a lieutenant's exam.) Jerry defends his crew when several officials visit his firehouse.
While at Sheila's new house, Tommy tells her he is not retiring from the FDNY. Distraught, she drugs him again and accidentally starts a fire. The fire spreads while the frantic Sheila is overwhelmed by frustration, and the finale closes without making it clear whether or not Tommy made it out of the house.
Season 4 premiered on June 13, 2007. Tommy and Sheila are apparently rescued by volunteer firefighters, but are then accused of arson and insurance fraud. Janet has given birth, and Tommy has come to accept it as his own. Unfortunately, the baby's hair finally comes in and it is "jet black" in color, leaving them to now believe that it is Johnny's son, instead.
Teddy is released from prison and immediately abandons his new wife Ellie in a coffee shop. Colleen runs away from home and moves in with her boyfriend, leaving her parents enraged.
Depressed after being told that he can no longer serve in active duty due to his poor heart, Jerry takes a desk job. After using his position behind a computer to tamper with evidence, effectively clearing Tommy of the arson charges, Jerry commits suicide. The firehouse gets a new chief.
Janet is suffering from postpartum depression and is deeply affected by her inability to bond with her new son. The baby cries constantly, and his crying seems to worsen when Janet holds him. Getting wind of this, Sheila has approached Tommy about their giving her the baby; she has offered Tommy $500,000 in payment. She continues to hound Tommy about this, and Tommy has not told Janet of Sheila's offer. Seeing how his wife is suffering, and how the baby is being neglected and seemingly rejected by everyone in the family but himself, Tommy is reluctantly beginning to re-consider Sheila's offer.
Tommy soon decides to give the baby to Sheila after contemplating throwing him into the Hudson River at the request of his brother's ghost. After Janet learns of what Tommy has done, she runs him down with her car. After she realizes that he is OK, she sends the youngest daughter, Katy, up to Sheila's apartment to steal the baby back. Meanwhile, in the apartment, Tommy has a breakdown in which all of his ghostly friends, including Jimmy, tell him they are tired of his selfishness and are done with him.
Tommy then shares custody with Sheila by bribing his daughter Colleen with a no limit credit card. Colleen gives the baby to Tommy whenever she has him, so he can in turn give him to Sheila. Colleen's boyfriend uses the credit card to buy a wedding ring. After Tommy learns this, he goes to the recording studio to sort out Colleen's boyfriend and destroys his guitar. The boyfriend tells Tommy the ring wasn't for Colleen, but for another girl. Relieved, Tommy apologizes to the boyfriend and wishes him and his new girlfriend the best of luck. When the boyfriend explains this to Colleen, he says he left her because Tommy scares him, which makes Colleen hate Tommy even more.
Maggie Gavin and Sean Garrity are on-again and off-again throughout the season, with Garrity pretending to be an alcoholic (like Maggie) to spend more time with her. But the two eventually split.
The Gavin family starts their own AA meetings due to the high number of alcoholics in the family. Michael Gavin, Tommy's father, refuses to attend meetings, but contacts Tommy and tells him that he's going to be sober (ironically at a bar) to "keep his friends close and his enemies closer." Tommy struggles to maintain his sobriety the entire season.
Tommy also begins seeing a woman named Valerie (Gina Gershon), who can't be touched after she orgasms. She and Tommy are on and off due to Tommy's periodic desire for his ex-wife Janet. Janet has taken a job, where she begins dating her much-younger boss.
A new firefighter named Bart joins the house, after Lou and Franco negotiated to get him for their basketball team. Bart says he goes by his nickname, Shawn, so the crew decides to call him "Black Shawn" to distinguish him from Sean Garrity. Black Shawn is not happy with this. Using the basketball team as leverage, Shawn says he doesn't want to be referred to as "Probie" and he expects to be absolved of any probie work. This initially angers Garrity, Mike, and most of all, Tommy. However, after Black Shawn shows himself worthy in the face of a raging fire, the entire crew accepts him, and even Tommy pays him begrudging respect.
The season ends with Tommy, Lou, Sean, Michael Gavin (Tommy's Dad), and Uncle Teddy attending a Newark Bears minor league baseball game at the request of Tommy's dad. Tommy and his father take the close up seats while the rest of the crew take seats higher up in the same section. Lou explains to Garrity how baseball is like life, waiting for something to come and not being awake for it to happen, but having enough time for a beer, a hot dog, and maybe a blowjob here and there.
Colleen is seen attending a picnic with Black Shawn. The last shot is of Tommy showing his father a hit, and his dad neither responding nor waking up. Tommy realizes that his father has died, puts his arm around him, and continues to watch the game.
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Save for one (which told the story of what happened in the fire station in the moments before the fire crew left the station to respond to the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center), the webisodes are largely stand-alone pieces, often showing the group in action rescuing people in fires, dream-like scenarios (such as Tommy imagining a night out with his various romantic interests), or general slice of life scenes set inside the station house.
The show was renewed for a fifth season of 22 episodes. In Thursday, May 15, 2008 interview on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Leary revealed season 5 had been delayed until March 2009 because of the writer's strike, but all 22 episodes would air on consecutive weeks. Michael J. Fox joined the cast, playing Janet's new love interest. According to the L.A. Weekly, on December 1, 2008, during an appearance at Book Soup in West Hollywood, Leary revealed plot details for season 5, specifically a retrospective look into the events leading up to and surrounding 9/11 by each of the characters. Conspiracy theories swarm the firehouse. Subsequently, Tommy and Lou vie for the affections of the woman (Karina Lombard) who is writing a 9/11 story, which is the plot line in the first 10 episodes of season 5, which premiered on April 7, 2009.
Silletti gets insurance money and an inheritance following his mother's death in season 4, and is convinced by Franco and Garrity to invest it in a bar. The bar becomes a popular after-hours place for the fire crew.
Later in season 5, Garrity suffers renal carcinoma and requires surgery, forcing him to reunite with his estranged mother and brother. Damien (Michael Zegen), Sheila and Jimmy's son, finishes training and joins the firehouse as a probie. A woman named Kelly (Maura Tierney) rushes into a fire that the crew is fighting and retrieves a mysterious metal suitcase. Tommy appears to shun both Janet and Sheila to spend time with Kelly. While there are some romantic undertones, Tommy is more interested in why the suitcase was so important to Kelly. Candy (Milena Govich), the prostitute who conned Lou in season 2, reappears after getting out of jail, claiming that she has turned her life around. After Lou's vehement dismissals, he lets her move in with him. After Candy claims to have inherited a large sum of money, they marry, combining their assets. A short time later, Lou discovers that Candy's real name is Barbara Callahan, and she is wanted in Florida for fraud. He empties their joint bank account, taking back the money she stole from him (plus interest), then confronts her. When she denies the allegations, Lou tells her that he's called the police, and if she's truly innocent, she'll wait for them to arrive, if guilty, she'll run. After continuing to tell him he's wrong, she ends up fleeing. Lou and Tommy fight because Lou does not want Tommy, his best friend, to come to his wedding. This leads to a brawl between the two, but they later make amends.
Much of season 5 also follows Tommy's extended family -- Cousin Mickey (Robert John Burke), Cousin Eddie (Terry Serpico), Uncle Teddy (Lenny Clarke), and Teddy's wife Ellie (Patti D'Arbanville) -- as they all return to drinking after spending several unsuccessful months in AA. In the penultimate episode, the four are drinking with Tommy when an obviously drunk Ellie leaves to pick up a dog she and Teddy had adopted. Shortly after leaving, Ellie runs a red light and gets hit by an 18-wheeler, which kills her instantly. In the final episode, Janet and Sheila convince Kelly to no longer see Tommy, and lie to her about something Tommy didn't do. Enraged over losing a positive relationship with Kelly, Tommy threatens Sheila and breaks up with her. Later on, after Tommy and Lou "kidnap" Katy from Janet to get back at her for the incident with Kelly, the two and the crew of Ladder 62 go to their bar. Later on, Teddy arrives, gives everyone there an ultimatum, and tries to get Tommy to kill him. In reality, Teddy points the finger of blame for what happened to Ellie at Tommy. The cliffhanger for the next season is set after Teddy shoots Tommy twice in the shoulder, leaving Tommy to bleed to death. Teddy, with his Glock 17 pistol resting on the bar in front of him, threatens to kill anyone who tries to leave and seek help.
On June 16, 2009, the Los Angeles Times website confirmed Rescue Me would return in 2010 for a ten-episode sixth season, due to increased ratings. Season 6 premiered Tuesday, June 29 at 10 p.m. A season 6 trailer was shown Tuesday, May 11, during FX's airing of Justified.
Season 6 deals with the aftermath of Tommy's near-death experience and the his, his tangled web of bed-hopping between Janet and Sheila. Because Tommy realized that he went to hell when he died, he vows to change his ways, to stop drinking, and to be a better person, firefighter, father, and husband. Janet alerts him Colleen (their 21-year-old older daughter) is becoming a drunk like her father, leading Tommy to take drastic measures in attempting to save her from becoming an alcoholic like the rest of her family. Janet also seeks to force Tommy to permanently sever ties with Sheila, as Sheila uses her son Damien and his joining Tommy's fire crew as leverage to continue their affair, even as she begins to date Tommy's ex-priest cousin Mickey. Tommy and Janet reconnect, although at a terrible price, as their daughter Katy threatens to disown them after she is accepted into a private boarding school away from the city.
At the Engine Company 99/Ladder Company 62 Firehouse, the main storyline involves the house being targeted for closure due to citywide budget cuts, which would leave the community it serves without any fire/emergency rescue services. This causes a major power struggle to break out between Battalion Chief "Needles" Nelson and his superior, Battalion (later Deputy) Chief Feinberg. Feinberg is accused by Needles of betraying the firefighters under him, as it appears Feinberg has made a corrupt bargain that will give him command over another existing house, nearby Engine Company 333/Ladder Company 74, in exchange for allowing his station to be shut down (and his men laid off and/or transferred). Taking matters into his own hands, Needles video-records Tommy and the crew rushing to the aid of deaf children when a fire breaks out at the community school, while the firefighters are all off-duty. The first fire company arrives late to the scene, long after Needles' crew has saved the children from the burning school. Needles promptly uses the video to blackmail his and Feinberg's superiors into saving the house from any budget shutdowns, earning Needles the praise of his underlings, and exposing Feinberg's disdain and hatred for Tommy and the rest of the rank and file firefighters. He is clearly more concerned with Needles' actions endangering his standing in the eyes of his superiors.
Near the end of the season, Damien (who had begun to have doubts about being a firefighter, only to be talked into continuing by Tommy) suffers a traumatic head injury while fighting a fire, which leaves him severely brain-damaged and unable to walk or communicate. The strain of dealing with her son's incurable condition breaks up Sheila and Mickey's relationship. While Tommy tries to juggle both Sheila and Janet in the wake of this, Janet as usual throws it in Tommy's face, giving him an ultimatum. She reminds him that Damien is not his responsibility, and that he should be more concerned with his own children. Tommy realizes he needs to be more proactive and committed if he is going to change his ways.
The seventh and final season premiered on Wednesday, July 13, 2011. Tommy confronts Janet about her pregnancy, and is told that the only way she will have the child is if Tommy retires from the FDNY and takes a safer job. Janet is supported by Sheila; the two women have bonded together over their shared grief of losing a son (despite Damien not being dead). Tommy's stress about his job is exacerbated when Black Shawn proposes to Colleen, who says "yes." Tommy's frustrations get the better of him during an interview about 9/11 and Jimmy, who is the subject of a hero piece. Franco, very angry about the interview, looks to move beyond 62 truck before his own life becomes too tainted. He gets into a fight with both Needles and Tommy, and the crew tries to intervene. The reporter begins hanging around the building and digging through the past of the guys on 62 Truck for more stories. The guys decide this needs to be stopped due to the sheer volume of bad press this would generate (namely, that Franco is essentially being a deadbeat dad, Needles married a mail-order bride who was an illegal alien, Mike is bisexual, and Tommy was sleeping with his dead cousin's wife). Tommy reaches out to some of Johnny's old contacts at the police department and manages to get a video of the reporter performing oral sex on another officer after being busted with cocaine, which Sheila uses to scare her off.
After hearing about other firefighters writing letters to their family members in case they died in the line of duty, Tommy writes letters to his family and the guys, and gives them to Lou to hand them out if he dies. Lou reads his immediately and is busted by Tommy, having set him up to steal a box of cupcakes he had stowed under his bunk for Janet. Due to increasing pressure from the guys (who had to fake Lou's physical for him), Lou starts a weight-loss regimen, and Tommy promises that if Lou loses weight he will make him the godfather of their new child. Lou struggles with his diet, and eventually lashes out at Tommy that food is how he copes with the hole that 9/11 created in him and that Tommy simply filled his hole with booze instead. Tommy writes Lou another, legitimate letter and gives it to him. Lou reads it and is moved to tears by his friend. Lou gives Sheila and Janet their letters, as they were angry with Tommy at the time, and both start being much kinder to Tommy. However, the letter Janet received was written by Lou, who accidentally burned the real one, and it promises that Tommy would quit the FDNY for her, unbeknownst to Tommy.
In the penultimate episode, Colleen and Black Shawn are married. During the wedding reception, while everyone in attendance tries to act normal, a drunken Sheila suggests Tommy and Janet renew their vows, which proposal Colleen and Katy second. Tommy is blindsided when Janet adds a new vow of him promising to retire from active duty, and take an administrative or training job. Tommy hesitates, but after Katy threatens to start drinking and become a prostitute, he agrees to take Janet's vow.
Later that night, during one of Tommy's last tours of duty as a firefighter, Engine 99 and Ladder 62 respond to a warehouse fire that quickly grows out of control. Both Chief Feinberg and Chief Nelson take command and call for a 4th alarm. The guys see hanging latex gloves and the smell of diesel fuel, and realize they are in the middle of an arson attempt. After reaching a window to escape, they hear voices of kids still inside. They locate the kids but are unable to get back to the ladder, and try to make for the roof. However, the door to the roof has been bricked over, trapping them inside. The chauffeur firefighter of Ladder 62, Niels Jorgensen, reports he can't rescue the men from the outside and has to leave the roof before it collapses. Tommy is about to leave the group and look for another route out after Lou tells him to go, obviously reminded about his vow to Janet. Tommy asks if Lou is sure, and Lou replies, "We'll be fine, trust me." Seconds later, a massive explosion guts the building.
The series finale begins with Lou eulogizing Tommy, Franco, Sean, Black Shawn, and Mike during a joint funeral with family, friends, and many other firefighters. This all turns out to be Tommy's dream.
While Tommy (now acting Lieutenant, having assumed command after Lou's death) is filling out a department report for Needles on that final incident, it is revealed from flashbacks that it was in fact only Lou who died, after having his face burned off in the fire. The recovering crew all contemplate their futures in leaving Ladder Company 62 and firefighting in general. Tommy files for retirement, Franco, Mike, and Sean consider transferring, and Black Shawn considers quitting for Colleen.
Later, Tommy finds that Lou has left him a letter in the event of his death, to be read at the scattering of his ashes. Tommy reads Lou's letter, which tells the guys to stay together, then spreads Lou's "remains". (Lou's ashes had to be replaced with dry cake mix, after the crew had a mishap on the way.) Immediately after the service, Janet goes into labor at home, and Tommy delivers his son. After some debate over a name and Tommy passing out, Janet decides to name the baby Shea Gavin in honor of Lou, after Tommy rejected all the other names she picked and because Tommy said Lou after the baby was born; Tommy agreed with the name because it honored his best friend, and he thought it would make a great name for a quarterback. After an earlier scolding from Sheila and an incident with Wyatt at a playground, Janet realizes that Tommy, regardless of everything, is not yet ready to retire.
The show's final moments recall the very first episode, with Tommy speaking to the new Academy class, but this time with a little more clarity and a warning not to drown their sorrows with sex, violence, and alcohol. As newly appointed Lieutenant Franco Rivera takes over, Tommy returns to his truck, this time conversing not with Jimmy's ghost but with Lou's, who among other things, comments on the mishap with his ashes. The two then make their peace, as Tommy has become a better person. The episode ends with The Pogues' "Dirty Old Town" playing as the camera pans over to the Manhattan skyline, where 1 World Trade Center's construction progress can be seen.
The main title theme song for Rescue Me is a shortened version of "C'mon C'mon" by The Von Bondies. That and several other songs were picked by Leary's son. The underscore and end title theme for the show were scored by composer Christopher Tyng, who also scored Leary's previous television series The Job.
The show was well received when it premiered. The series premiere garnered Denis Leary and Peter Tolan an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series. Tolan also received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series. Leary received another Emmy nomination the next year, this time for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Critics praised the show's willingness to take risks and talk about family, depression, alcoholism, homophobia, and the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Rescue Me received critical acclaim, scoring 86/100, 89/100, 90/100, 85/100, 84/100, 77/100 and 73/100 on Metacritic for seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, respectively.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released Rescue Me on DVD in Regions 1, 2, and 4. All seven seasons have been released in Region 1, seasons 1-3 in Regions 2 and 4. Season 3 was the only one to be released for the Blu-ray Disc by itself. Rescue Me: The Complete Series was released on DVD on September 25, 2012 with all seven seasons' 93 episodes in a 26-disc set. Mill Creek Entertainment released a box set with all seven seasons on Blu-ray on September 11, 2018.